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Santos: This is for the final, not the Ballon d´Or

Portugal coach Fernando Santos rejected the notion that a showdown between Real Madrid superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale adds extra edge to the Euro 2016 semi-final against Wales.

Ronaldo will continue his quest for a major international honour following defeats in the Euro 2004 final and the semis of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012, while Bale has inspired Wales to a place in the last four at their first tournament appearance since the 1958 World Cup.

The two most expensive players in football history have dominated the pre-match build-up, but Santos was reluctant to get involved in the hype.

“There is no added pressure, I think all these players have a lot of experience,” he told a pre-match news conference at Stade de Lyon. “They are used to this, so there will be no added pressure.

“All teams are committed, they all want to make it through to the final. They have come this far so they want to reach the final. They all have this same goal

“It’s not about Cristiano or Bale. All players in all teams want to go as far as possible.

“We are not playing for the Ballon d’Or, we are playing for the final.”

Bale’s openness with the media throughout the tournament and his willingness to buy into Wales’ team ethic has won the former Tottenham winger numerous plaudits.

By contrast, Ronaldo’s short on-field temper and aloof image has led to accusations that he does not play his part within the Portuguese collective – claims Santos insists are wide of the mark.

“He’s been an amazing example so far in every aspect of his game,” the former Greece boss said. “When you talk about being a team player, he has been unsurpassable. 

“The way he behaves on the training pitch, around the other players – he’s on the same level as every single player when it comes to motivation, because they all want to make it to Paris and to win the final.

“This is something he’s done himself.”

News of Portugal winger Nani completing his transfer from Fenerbahce to Valencia broke as Santos’ opposite number Chris Coleman gave his briefing earlier on Tuesday, but the 61-year-old has no concerns over the ex-Manchester United player becoming distracted on the eve of a pivotal encounter. 

“When you mention Nani, this is a natural thing in football,” he added.

“Valencia are not playing tomorrow. Nani is playing for the Portugal squad. We have not talked about Valencia. We are here to discuss Wales and Portugal.”

Tue 5 Jul, 2016
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